Although the fact that it starts off with a montage with the constantly used "All Star" playing behind it is certainly a step in the negative direction, "Shrek" is such a delight otherwise that that one flaw certainly doesn't drag the picture down in the slightest. In fact, "Shrek" is such a consistently delightful and clever picture that I still wish it could've been extended by at least a few more minutes.
The animated film revolves around an Ogre named Shrek, who's a grumpy loner. Living in the swamp by himself, his only concern is the occasional mob of villagers with torches. Although he says he's happy with his situation, one must wonder if he's really lonely. One day, he finds his semi-happy home disturbed with hundreds of visitors large and small - fairy-tale characters who've been given the boot into the forest by the tiny Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow).
Accompanied by the simply named Donkey(Eddie Murphy), Shrek goes off to complain to Lord Farquaad about his new guests. Instead of getting his land back, he finds himself having to rescue the Lord's bride-to-be, Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) , who's currently stuck in the highest tower of a castle containing one fire-breathing dragon. That's only the begining of the story though, as "Shrek" has a blast parodying and poking fun at not only other fairy tales, but shows off some other pop-culture references, as well.
Although "Shrek"'s animation was later bested somewhat by "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within", "Shrek" still certainly proves to still be the stronger picture, with a better combination of beautiful animation and a more entertaining story. "Shrek" also certainly boasts better voice talent, as Meyers and Murphy are wonderful together, and I can't remember a recent movie where Murphy has been funnier. Also wonderful are Diaz and especially Lithgow, whose "interrogation" of the Gingerbread Man is one of the best sequences of the film.
Although it hasn't been a great year for much else, I must say there's been some really strong family features, including "Spy Kids", "Cats and Dogs", and best of all, "Shrek". "Shrek" is really one of those films that adults and children will equally enjoy, as the film's witty screenplay (credited to 4 writers and based on a novel) and obvious improvisations from the stars offer enough sharp humor for both adult and child audiences. The film is from Dreamworks and animation studio PDI, whose technology has apparently come far from their original effort, "Antz".
VIDEO: "Shrek" is presented on one disc in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and the other in 1.33:1 full-frame. The anamorphic widescreen edition is instant demo material, as it appeared simply breathtaking and without flaw. Although such an example of perfection would usually make for a very short review, I'll try and discuss what makes this presentation so excellent. Taken direct from the digital source, the picture looks marvelously well-defined. I don't think the picture appeared as sharp and smooth when I saw it in the theater.
The usual discussion of concerns about the image quality will certainly be short, since I didn't have any. There's no print flaws to be seen since the presentation is taken from the digital source; there's also no pixelation or edge enhancement whatsoever. As previously noted, the picture is also never soft; in fact, even the tiniest details on the ground or otherwise were distinct and easily seen.
Colors were simply fantastic throughout; even the subtle shadings were beautifully rendered. Colors appeared bright, bold and wonderfully well-saturated throughout, looking rich and flawless. This is a truly outstanding effort - flawless and an easy A+.
SOUND: "Shrek" is presented in different ways for each of the two different formats. The 1.33:1 full-frame edition presents the movie with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio as well as Dolby 2.0 English/French/Spanish. For the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen edition, the film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 English/French/Spanish, Dolby 2.0 English and DTS 5.1 English.
"Shrek" really isn't an agressive film at all in terms of audio. Aside from a couple of moments of action such as the Dragon sequence, the film's audio remains rooted in the front speakers, focusing mainly on the dialogue and music. A few hints of ambient sounds come from the rears during some of the outdoor sequences, but these are extremely subtle - it would have been nice to have a more generous helping of ambient sounds during the outdoor sequences, but this may have been a choice by the filmmmakers to keep things less realistic and more fairy-tale.
Audio quality remained superb as the entertaining score came through warmly and crisply, while dialogue sounded crystal clear. Both the Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks delivered an entertaining, if not terribly agressive experience. The DTS soundtrack did provide a fairly stronger experience with an overall richer and bolder sound, especially noticable during the music or the film's few intense sequences.
MENUS:: Basic, non-animated menus that essentially use film-themed images and cover art. Just kidding. "Shrek"'s DVD offers fun animated main and sub-menus involving the characters from the movie.
Commentary: This is a commentary from directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, along with producer Aron Warner. This is a moderately entertaining and often informative track. It starts off a bit slowly, but once the three get going, they start to make a few more quips about the story and discuss further details about the animation and story development process.
Multi-Angle Storyboard Pitch of Deleted Scenes: One of the features that I've enjoyed most during some of the other animated special edition DVDs was the ability to watch some of the animators wear themselves out attempting to pitch story ideas to an indifferent or interested audience of their peers. This section for "Shrek" offers the ability to watch animators pitch three sequences: "Fiona's Prologue", "The Deal", "Fiona Gets Them Lost". The first angle shows the different storyboards as they're being talked about, while the second angle shows the animator trying his best to act out the scene for the audience.
Tech Of Shrek: Although this 22-minute documentary doesn't skip a few chances to be promotional, the majority of this supplement provides a very interesting discussion of the impressive amount of work that went into "Shrek"'s three-year production process and the differences between the technology during the production of PDI's "Antz" and "Shrek". This featurette also includes some of the technical flops that are included elsewhere, which shows what could happen when the animation goes wrong, such as a version of the Donkey that looks like a "Chia Pet". Certainly the better of the two main featurettes included on the DVD.
Progression Reel: Well, I'd call it more of a "concept art gallery", but that's just me. Where "Progression Reels" on other animated DVDs have included multi-angle abilities to watch a few versions of a scene in motion, this section simply offers early/rough sketches of the different characters as the animators were trying to get a feel for each of them. The areas are: "Shrek", "Fiona", "Beast Fiona", "Donkey", "Farquaad", "Dragon", "Dragon's Castle", "Shrek's House", "Duloc".
X-Box Game Hints: Animated hints about how to play what I suppose is the upcoming game for the X-Box system.
Technical "Goofs": The "animation goofs" that were in the documentary reappear on their own here.
Extended Karaoke Jam: Available by clicking the little note logo on the main menu, this is a newly animated Karaoke Jam by all the characters (although apparently, a Murphy sound-alike was brought in to voice his character).
Also On Disc Two: Cast/crew bios, theatrical trailer (French/English 5.1), production notes, short featurette about dubbing the film into different languages and DVD-ROM weblink
Features On Disc One:
HBO FIRST LOOK: Shrek Although this documentary does provide some of the animation information that the "Tech" documentary did, it does focus more heavily on story and character details, as interviews with the stars (including a giggly Cameron Diaz) are included as they talk about what it was like to voice their characters. The second half of the doc provides better tidbits, as we're given more of an idea of what the animation process is like. Mildly informative on occasion and even the "promotional" elements are amusing and somewhat entertaining. Worth a viewing.
DVD-ROM: For those that have DVD-ROM capability, "Shrek" offers quite a few features for DVD-ROM, the biggest of which is the ability to re-voice characters in one of 12 different scenes with your own voice. Aside from the re-voice studio, there are several games and workshops that allow children to color scenes. 13 DVD-ROM sections in all.
"Sneak Peek": A trailer (in 5.1) for the 2002 animated effort from Dreamworks, "Spirit".
Games: Two trivia games, "Shrektacular Trivia" and "Mirror, Mirror on The Wall".
Dreamworks Kids: This section includes "Shrek's Music Room", which offers the music videos "Best Years Of Our Lives" by the Baha Men and "I'm A Believer" by Smash Mouth. A "making-of" for the Baha Men video is also found here. "Favorite Scenes" is just a more child-friendly version of "Scene Selection". Last, "The Game Swamp" offers 5 interactive games: "Rescue The Princess", "Character Morph", "Dress Up The Gingerbread Man" and the two games that are in the "Games" section - "Shrektacular Trivia" and "Mirror, Mirror on The Wall".
Also: Returning on this disc are the cast/crew bios, production notes and extended ending ("Karaoke Jam").
Final Thoughts: "Shrek" is a hilarious and wildly entertaining animated fairy-tale that definitely is good for multiple viewings to catch all the little jokes. Dreamworks has provided a jaw-droppingly beautiful presentation, with very good audio and astoundingly good video quality. Fine supplements round out a very nice package. A must-see!.